Commencement is a time when seniors traditionally reflect on what they have accomplished and what the future might hold. The Class of 1980 also asked some questions. What about the graduates who preceded them? Where are they? What have they achieved? How well have they met the challenges they faced following commencement?

The questions led the 1980 Senior Class officers to establish the first annual Distinguished Graduate Award to recognize the professionals and humanitarian achievements of Butler High graduates who made their presence known in their communities and in the world.

The list includes musicians, educators, diplomas, medical doctors, designers, scientists, and business leaders. The name of the recipient is announced annually during commencement exercises, to answer publicly the questions first asked by the Class of 1980 and to make the assembled families and friends of each graduating class aware of how endless the possibilities are.

The search for the recipients begins with American Education Week each November. Nominations are accepted until April 1. A Distinguished Graduate Award Steering Committee directs the project. The committee includes the chairperson and founder of the award, past recipients, the school board president or his/her designee, senior representatives on the Student Advisory Committee to the school board, and the Senior Class officers and faculty advisers.

The steering committee researches the nominees and presents the names of three finalists to the DGA Selection Committee, which votes by secret ballot to choose the Distinguished Graduate. Members of the selection committee include the Senior Class officers and advisers, senior representatives to the board Student Advisory Committee, and a senior representative from each Butler High club and organization.

Nominees remain in contention from year to year unless the person making the nomination withdraws the name. Anyone making a nomination should continue to update a nominee's file by sending additional information to the senior high school.